The Light at the End of the Tunnel (Part 1)
by Tavis Adibudeen, United States of America
Many of the things people go through prepare them for life and mold
the choices they make in the future. Islam, now the fastest growing
religion in the US (at approx. 500,000 new converts a year), relays
this very well. All of the converts (or more appropriately: reverts)
to Islam have some significant or collection of insignificant events
or people that shaped their concept of Islam. This concept, for them,
became action. It is fair to say that many of the things that
introduce a person to Islam are difficulties and misunderstandings. It
has been said that one must crawl before they can walk, or you must
get knocked down before you can be picked up again. This is often the
case for new Muslims in America. They don't realize how precious Islam
is, until they realize how hard life can be. We are not prophets, and
therefore there is no revelation to us. Instead, we must come to terms
with our reality before touching our spirituality. For African
Americans in America, this is a difficult road in which to travel.
Today, there is an estimated 10 million Muslims in the United States,
2 million of which are African American.
Furthermore, most of the new Muslims are of African descent. For them,
it is a story of self discovery erased by 200 years of slavery. Some
identify with Islam firstly because it was practiced by many of the
their ancestors from Africa, and Christianity was forced on the slaves
by Europeans. Others, because it clears obvious mistakes and
exclusions of African Americans in Christianity. Most, however, find a
combination of all these things with Islam. This is the road I had to
travel. This was my light at the end of the tunnel.
I was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana from birth to Christian parents.
My mother, raised in Tennessee, was a Methodist Christian and a
frequent church attender. My father was non- denominational and an
occasional church attender. My mother was a very religious person, so
my father, my sister, and I usually went to church with her. From as
early as I can remember, I was always surrounded by Christianity. My
father and mother both worked, and they were trying to finish school.
This meant that someone would have to take care of me during the day.
Until I was about three, I had a baby sitter. Then, I started going to
Noah's Ark, a private Christian preschool. By this time my sister had
started elementary school. Noah's Ark was like living in Sunday
school. We learned Bible verses, sang church songs, and also did
general child type activities. I often remember bringing home little
cards that had bible verses on them. If you memorized the verse, you
would get a reward. I don't really remember what
the reward was. I guess I didn't memorize enough to know what it was.
On Sundays we all put on our best clothes and went to church. To me it
seemed to be mostly singing and nodding of heads. At my youthful age,
I had little understanding of what purpose any of the things we did
served. In fact I still question that today, but I thought my mother
knew everything (and compared to what I knew she did), so I did what
she said. As I grew older, things seemed to drift away and eventually
fall apart. My father began going to church less and less. For the
first time, I was in a public school where the teaching of any
religion is illegal, and I suddenly found myself in an environment
much different from Noah's ark.
At this point in my life, there were two religions; one was
Christianity, and the other one wasn't. At ages six and seven, I had
never heard of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or anything else.
Actually, I knew of one other religion: Jehovah's Witnesses. They
seemed to just be strict Christians to me. My friend who lived across
the street from me was a Jehovah's Witness, but my impressions of them
mostly came from the people who dressed up and went door to door
trying to interest people. Often times, we tried to avoid opening the
door, so they wouldn't bother us. The earliest church congregation
that I remember was the one my mother stayed with until recently. In
Christianity the minister preached for a living. He was paid by the
congregation, and he lived in a house especially set aside by the
church. Our first minister was energetic, but they got rid of him. The
second was a women, who I thought was nice, but they got rid of her
too. Then came a man who changed the way I looked at the religion.
Maybe it was just because I was older, or maybe he actually had
something to do with it. Regardless, I actually went to church to hear
him, but that wasn't until later in my life. They say, however, that
children identify with their same sex parents, and I identified with
By the time I was in fifth grade, he usually only went to church on
Christmas, Easter, and Mother's Day. I soon followed. It actually
wasn't until several years later that the third minister would come to
our church. I had always loved Christmas, not because of its religious
significance, but because it was a tradition to exchange gifts on that
holiday. Many songs were about the birth of Jesus (alaiy his salaam),
but it seemed as though there were and are just as many songs about
Santa Claus. So, many stories existed about Santa Claus, that seemed
ridiculous to an adult but were sacred when told to a child. A big,
round, rosy cheeked white man supposedly flew through the sky
(propelled by flying reindeer) on Christmas Eve dropping off presents
at people's houses. My sister and I believed in that for many years.
We decorated Christmas trees, baked Christmas cookies, drank eggnog,
and went to bed early on December 24 every year so Santa Claus could
come down our Chimney at night and give us gifts. It seems so silly
now, but it was something we believed and something our parents told
us and helped us believe. Naturally, most children would eventually
find out that Santa was fake and spread it to other kids. It was
my sister that eventually told me. All those years Mommy and Daddy had
been putting the presents there at night, not Santa! I felt violated.
I was taught at Noah's Ark that we weren't supposed to lie, yet
Americans lie to their children every year. These Christian children
seemed to hold the mystical Santa Claus more dear to them than the
real Jesus Christ (ahs). Strike one.